Breaking Down the Kobe Bryant Poem

So Kobe published a poem yesterday. 

Some outlets steadfastly refused to call it a poem, instead referencing the work as “A Letter.” Some didn’t know what to do about this literary/sports oddity.

Bleacher Report went “Open Letter.”

Reuters called it an essay (OK…)

NPR went poem and form-of-a-poem.

Esquire went poem. Rolling Stone went poem. Anyone with a brain went poem. Because it is a poem. To not label it a poem is part of ESPN’s (and other outlets) hangups. I suspect they just couldn’t fathom poetry as a vehicle of communication within sports, especially in the new hyper-produced, hyper-opinionated, hyper-cynical-mallet-to-your-head LOUD LOUD LOUD world of sports media.

(Cynical in that the new sports media implies the audience can in no way digest subtlety or perspective)

Andy North and Mike Furman of Fox Sports called the poem “sickening” and soft,” interestingly. (I listen to sports radio, clearly a personality flaw [of many] on my part.) They also opined that the poem was meant to upstage Michael Jordan’s retirement letter.  (Hmm…)

I don’t want to be the next Michael Jordan. I want to be the first Kobe Bryant.

ESPN seems to be evolving as the day goes on. ON TV this morning, they went “letter.” Later, they called it a first-person story, and then a first-person story that took the form of a poem (?).

Holy hybrid text!

It is a poem. But first published on the internet,  so that confuses things. Poetry makes nothing happen, as Auden reminds us, a smart, paradoxical statement, and isn’t that further truth that Kobe has indeed penned a poem? Nothing really happened. But his poem almost broke the internet (the site crashed once the poem appeared). And it’s the internet, where nothing happens and nothing happens. So.

poet Kobe

I didn’t even know Kobe was a poet, though I suppose I’m not surprised. He spent formative years in Europe, is fluent in several classical languages, played soccer (excuse me, futbol) for years, and even his name smacks of high culture, Kobe, a type of very expensive, Japanese beef his parents just happened to see on a restaurant menu while mulling over names for their newborn and then deciding, “Hey, why not?”

(Fortunately for Kobe, his parents weren’t eating eggplant)

And I suppose if you look at some past quotations, he was obviously harboring the inner heart of a poet:


I have a lot of self-doubt.


I can’t relate to lazy people. I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you.


I’ve shot too much from the time I was 8 years old. But ‘too much’ is a matter of perspective. Some people thought Mozart had too many notes in his compositions. Let me put it this way: I entertain people who say I shoot too much. I find it very interesting. Going back to Mozart, he responded to critics by saying there were neither too many notes or too few. There were as many as necessary.


Christmas morning, I’m going to open presents with my kids. I’m going to take pictures of them opening the presents. Then I’m going to come to the Staples Center and get ready to work.


These young guys are playing checkers. I’m out there playing chess.

You shake the tree, a leopard’s gonna fall out.

I am Black Mamba.

Let’s check out this poem.

The auditor, or audience, for the poem is the game of basketball. Kobe did rip this off from Jordan’s retirement letter:


I love you, Basketball. I love everything about you and I always will. My playing days in the NBA are definitely over, but our relationship will never end.

But I don’t really want to go there, and let’s give Kobe credit here for the poetic technique called apostrophe, wherein you address a poem to a non-human auditor.

For example, “To a Waterfowl” by William Cullen Bryant is written to a duck.

From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

What do we see poetic here? A lot. The use of stanzas is noted, an Italian term translated as “little room,” possibly the same the same flats and appartements he dwelled within as his father, Jelly Bean, who played professional basketball in Europe. Anapest appears, then stumbles, but note the imagery, the rolled tube socks, an elegiac nostalgia of the object, Rilke’s father, Dylan Thomas, poetry as a snapshot to capture the idyll of youth, the beginnings, a certain care for words, parallelism of rolling and shooting, the rhyme of socks and shots, and I admire the enjambment–we’re left hanging like a jump-shot ball arcing in the air…What is real? What one thing?

I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.

And now the poem–like most all poems by anyone who hasn’t dedicated a serious life to this arduous art–turns very, very lame. Even the Trochaic goes topsy, which is hard to do. The abstractions of love overwhelm, mind, spirit (and etc.), the repetition of love (ah, love), the cliche of the tunnel, a keen interest in the “I.” And also the “I.” The poem seems to drop pretty much every interest in poetry at this point.

(Poet Bruce Smith once told me most American poets look out the window and immediately write about themselves.)

And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

Here, some rhyme returns and I do appreciate the “run” motif threading itself throughout stanzas, providing some logic. Basketball is now YOU. Accusatory? A vengeful god? Or simply such a LARGE presence, and this being the internet, we need ALL CAPS, for emphasis, see? The shame is these stanzas could have been poetry. What we would give now for scene, verisimilitude, specifics. To see those socks rolled right into a simile. A spat of fire with Shaq. Or remember the time Kobe refused–as a brash teen–to even work our for the Celtics? (Could we get that remembered dialogue?) A game (or games) against Kobe’s heavy, cloaking shadow, Michael Jordan. The breakfast with Rondo? The 81 points against Toronto, the ball falling into the green and golden mercy of the basket…The time, in the 3rd quarter, where the Dallas Mavericks scored 62 points and Kobe had 61. Scorch! And thud: The air balls we’ve endured all this season (air balls! multiple air balls!). The MOMENTS (not to go all caps). It’s the moments–crystallized like shimmering cobwebs of memory or the strings of a basketball net caught in the big city lights–that make poetry, Mr. Mamba.

But no. All we get is hurt and challenge and feel–words that are honestly the enemy of poetry.

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have. 

Here, I admire the specificty of Six-year-old boy and a bit of interest in language with Laker dream and grinding and pounding. Rhyme returns, even internal rhyme, but then everything else fades away into coach and athlete talk, the words Orwell warned us all about, abstractions, the good and the bad, 100% percent efforts, one game at a time, they have to get on the same page, for example, terms that mean absolutely nothing.

And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

Love you always,

The ending I enjoyed. First, because it ended the poem (I applaud in the same manner for James Franco’s work.). Second, the cyclical structure back to the rolled-up socks, to a sort of a kind thank you to his father (he provided the socks/opportunities of life, didn’t he?), the image of a garbage can, the 5…4…3 interest in form/function (end of poem, end of game, end of career, etc.), and I really like the sign-off, printed and then a signature, very Beat poetry, naming the speaker as speaker, the place as place, the everyday as extraordinary. Well done, Kobe. Gary Snyder (or even Bill Walton) would be sort of proud.
 This isn’t the only poem Kobe delivered yesterday (maybe, like Jewel, this is his next career?). He wrote a personal one (sort of) for every Laker fan at last night’s game (a game of many Kobe air-balls, including game-winning attempts). Here it is, printed on very nice paper:


I will not review this poem; it is centered. I do not want to get into a lengthy discussion of centered poetry except to say please do not center your poetry. Please.

Do you hear me, Kobe?!

Makes no damn sense. Now I’m supposed to come back from this ?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that?? I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me…Then again maybe not!”

OK, OK…never mind.

Mary Ruefle vs. Abigail Zimmer in a Death Match

Today, we have two newcomers, Mary Ruefle, who is a former greens-keeper and primarily a flash fiction author, and Abigail Zimmer, who I met once in Chicago at that touristy pier thing with the boats and the shops and ball-peen hammer and the giant bell or anchor I forget. (Abigail was at the beer garden sort of glimmering on a table drunk and doing standup. She kept dropping Derek Jeter jokes that were like 6 out of 10 funny, though humor is admittedly subjective and I had a head cold weeks early sort of lingering like ceramics.)

Hey, guys, you know why Derek Jeter’s house is so damn big?!

Ehhh…something about girlfriends, batting average…


stein nachos 3

What good is memory? I know about ten dog stories, yet I have experienced countless dogs in my life.

Abigail Zimmer writes of mice and oranges, here.

Ruefle sometimes erases shit, which seems especially cool/lazy.

I never get head colds. That’s a dern lie. Anyway, I was hungover from so much running in the parks and dairylands of Chicago, the hills and wales of Chicago–sing it with me–the rolling hills, the nighttime thrills, the icy spills, the chills running down the wine, the line, the fishing line of memory, the rain, something, something…the…ah, never mind. Let’s do this!

What shall we try?

Let’s try, “A Penny For Your Thoughts” (Ruefle) versus “My best friend says that Horton Hears a Who is an allegory for the impending zombie takeover.” (Zimmer)

The rules are simple: Which author writes the better poetry in the two texts I have chosen? The categories are:

Best Opening Line

Best Image

Best Thing That Made Think

Best Reference to Nachos

Best Ending Line

A feeble attempt to keep the track dust from peppering her nachos grande.

Grab your Pop Tart and glass of red; and let’s begin!!



 How are we to find eight short English words

that actually stand for autumn?

It’s a good question. As use of the interrogation point, or the eroteme, as my sixth grade substitute teacher would insist, as she passed around various over-sized glossy photos of herself in a bikini atop a motorcycle (she was later dismissed). I always wanted the question mark to be a bolt of lightning, but I wasn’t consulted. So. Opening with a question bring me, the willing reader, into play. Sean, would you like to enter my poem, to sit with me at the table, to track with me a hurricane of ideas, to leave yourself, to threaten your own national insecurities, to dance, to twirl, to synapse, to spend billions of tax dollars on rainbows, to arrive, arrive like the cinnamon whirl from a ceiling fan mounted on the blood moon. these opening lines really remind me of sitting by a river with the author, drinking strong coffee from a blue, ceramic mug. Possibly we are naked. I liked it.


On the first day of the apocalypse the conductor stops calling out the names of where we are but I recognize Belmont because a drag queen is stealing your cell phone.

I Think we’ve had quite enough of apocalyptic literature at this point in time.


Best opening line goes to Mary Ruefle!

Best Image


Hmmm…well MR’s poem is full of images, because all really good poetry is full of images. It’s tough. It’s like I’m picking the best acorn from a really solid barrel of acorns someone picked from the ground and placed into the barrel for some unknown reason. They all taste good to deer and any of them could grow into an even larger oak tree and taller oak tree and be around way after me (like all quality images), my children’s children might attach a swing to even one limb of the image and swing and swing and swing! And rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! Ok, I’ll go with this one:

Now the clouds look burnt. But first they burned.

That’s what I’m talking about.


There are halogen trees and fields of people discussing the just announced Pantone color of the year.

I’m not discussing Halogen trees at this point. I’m a man of principles. I don’t know what Pantone means. But I do enjoy Abigail’s keen sense of word choice. As she once said in Chicago, “The American language has too many words and is basically a pain in the ass, but, for poets, it’s OK, right, it’s like what Derek Jeter says about base hits: ‘you can’t really have too many.’ Words are basically base knocks for poets.”

Well said, Abigail.

Abigail wins best image!


(Mylar balloons drift and whirl from the ceiling like those kids you see on the streets of Vancouver.)

Best Thing That Made Think


One peculiar way to die of loneliness
is to try.

I have oft wondered if the lonely are purposely lonely, or if it’s a condition of the others, or if it’s societal/anti-societal, or if it’s something else entirely. Loneliness, as we know, adds irreverence to life, I mean chemiluminescent, like when you see minnows spinning (dead minnows) in a pool of mountain water and their scales are spinning in a sort of vortex–I mean to say loneliness puts a special “butter” on the edges of a moonset and also of course makes night air smell like copper. Then again, let me write a poem: I call it, Pomegranate Series __9.

Thank you, thank you, thank you very little…

I still don’t know what Pantone means and, no, I’m not going to Just Google it. That would be death. Akin to death. Then again, from my rotting body, flowers shall grow and some little kid will probably pick the flowers, you know, and the kid will try to give the flowers to his stinking drunk mom, who’s just drinking, you know, spending all day drinking and night, too, drinking with two or three men and sometimes three or four other men and usually another woman or two, sometimes from Memphis, a waitress or idle man from out of town, whatever, and she’d end up in dances in the country (B52 Love Shack, anyone?), those wonderful hot nights in the country, and really what could some sickly, little kid with a loofah gourd for a head (the shape), how could that kid compete, even if he has a fistful of flowers picked from the soil that was once my rotting body? So, anyway, not sure why I’m scared of death, is my point, I’ll live forever in the sweaty, rejected fist of a kid. I’m writing this from a swimming pool, BTW. In Kentucky. Anyway, I’m not Googling Pantone, I said I wouldn’t, damn it!, is my key point of emphasis here.

Best Thing That Made Think is won by Abigail!!! We might have us a dern upset here, folks! There’s a long drive, deep center field, it might be, it could be, it is! A home run! Holy Cow! This whippersnapper from Chicago with her Derek Jeter jokes, all sashaying, walking tall, legs flailing out like a plastic bag of sporks on the table, kids dropping Monopoly boards as they run wild down the sidewalks of holidays and life!

Moving on…

Best Reference to Nachos


Talk for half an hour about the little churchyard
full of the graves of people who have died
eating nachos.


First, I enjoy the humor. Obviously, no one has ever died from eating nachos, since nachos–as research has proven–is the single healthiest serving of food in the world, whether you eat them for breakfast or just because you are at local bar, lonely on a Sunday afternoon, sitting gaunt, grizzled, austere, wishing you were eating nachos as you eat nachos.

anniston egg book copy

When I read this verse, my head chopped off like a blade of ice melting across a frozen sea of a skittle, a real skittle, not the fucking candy. It’s like the love I feel for plagiarism and deadlines, as both go whoossssshing by.

I read these lines and stood up from the Kentucky swimming pool and I let out these words (loudly, echoing among the sickly, loud kids of Kentucky):


I don’t even know what that means. I felt like a galloping bat, like I just galloped past the house and kept on galloping, my little sonar pinging, pinging, and isn’t that what the lonely do, send out little pings?

I felt like I had done treed a deputy of the law.

There’s a dude in this swimming pool I swear his knees look like Norm McDonald’s knees. Odd.


Abigail Zimmer, she doesn’t mention nachos.

Best Ending Line


To you I must tell all or lie.

I prefer the lie.


I give it to you because I am asking for Bieber’s beautiful wave of adult hair and an elephantine ass like Billie Holiday must have had, had anyone thought to take a picture of her walking away.

Get Billie Holiday’s name out your mouth! But I do like writing about asses…Hmm.

The winner, in a close one, is…

MARY RUEFLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here’s a photo of her eating nachos.


Hang in there, Abigail. It was a close one. Here’s a photo of Abigail for you kind folks:

judy 3

Until the next tempest,





Hemingway strolls into wars and rides water buffalo. Not to mention marriage (s), a very taxing activity. Very. Agatha Christie takes long, long constitutionals, for weeks. Where is she? Books sell. Murder. Rolf Jacobsen sculpts pillowcases, and sometimes, well, he was wrong. I once preferred two pillows, now one is OK. I hate the short pour and also when politicians breathe out their eyeballs. Twain shoots small pistols at large, water rats (Coypu?), rats scurrying in canals like the shadows of a seesaw. But why? Elvis knows three types of karate, as does Elizabeth Bishop,

elvis 1who often forgot it was Sunday, liquor stores closed, so more than once drank cologne.

bishop 2William Stafford practices slight-of-hand magic, daily (we saw him working K’s wedding), as does Jimmy Chen and we all know Murakami likes to run and run and run, slowly. Sort of a shuffle. OK, a jog. He jogs, his mind swirling with tunnels and shopping cats.

In fact, this is a town of cats. When the sun starts to go down, many cats come trooping across the bridge—cats of all different kinds and colors. They are much larger than ordinary cats, but they are still cats. The young man is shocked by this sight. He rushes into the bell tower in the center of town and climbs to the top to hide. The cats go about their business, raising the shop shutters or seating themselves at their desks to start their day’s work. Soon, more cats come, crossing the bridge into town like the others. They enter the shops to buy things or go to the town hall to handle administrative matters or eat a meal at the hotel restaurant or drink beer at the tavern and sing lively cat songs. Because cats can see in the dark, they need almost no lights, but that particular night the glow of the full moon floods the town, enabling the young man to see every detail from his perch in the bell tower. When dawn approaches, the cats finish their work, close up the shops, and swarm back across the bridge.

I don’t like when people call runners joggers. Though running does jog the brain.

Curtis Smith with a running flash here.

Tennis star Andy Murray, on literature: “I don’t read, I haven’t read a book since the second Harry Potter.”

Thanks, Andy.


Robert Frost likes to shake sadness from the fingers of ferns on the forest floor. Galway Kinnell sings, badly. Blake Butler walks on treadmills as he reads his yearly 120 + books. Jan Follain stuffs dead animal eye sockets with marbles. Tomas Transtromer has a cooler name than you and argues in one poem that writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain (the reticular activating system [RAS]) and so on/so on and there are a lot of tiny frogs climbing up the outside of my house, a lot of tiny, green frogs, not really sure why, but if I was Gary Snyder I’d insert the frogs into one of those Robin poems. The frog is a device of nostalgia, etc. Also the shack. I keep seeing Gary Snyder building a deck or walking on top my roof, not sure why, all back-lit by the moon. Tu Fu competitively eats cheeseburgers and TN Williams likes to swim. A few weeks ago, I perchanced a boat trailer:


—Jean Follain

A taxidermist is sitting
before the russet breasts
green and purple wings
of his song-birds
dreaming about his lover
with a body so different
yet so close sometimes
to the body of the birds
that it seemed to him
very strange
in its curves and its volumes
in its colors and its finery
and its shades…

16 foot, purchased off Craig’s List. Dude’s name was Larry. He was out front, installing a homemade outhouse on a pontoon boat. Welding. Clever.

Me: How fixed are you on your price? You take 400?

Larry: Well, I can’t give it away. I could do 425.

Larry shows me how to hook it up to car. Explains pins, chains, lights. Later:

Larry: You don’t have a plate. Take the back roads home. (Inferring to avoid police)

Larry: You can pinch your fingers off (this about hitch).

Larry: You know to take wide turns, right?

Larry: I can give you a way home you’ll see no one.

Larry: You ever driven a trailer?

Me: No.

Larry: Well, some people drive a trailer and they forget the trailer is back there. Don’t do that.

So I hit a curb or something but get home and start making the boat trailer into a canoe/kayak trailer.


1. Align the bumpers. Use a hammer or a minimum wage banana. Measure once, cut twice.

2. Give the bow tops solitude. Herd the sheep. Don’t feel bad: sheep enjoy being herded. Cup holders?

3. Feed the winch coffee. (No more than 12)

4. Buy some swim noodles from the lower 48 and smoke them. Punch them full of cloves and feel like you’re back in college.

5. Axles, springs, and U-bolts optional. A U bolt is a bolt in the shape of U. Wish life was more often that way.

6. Get two buckets and make it look like Alabama. Make it a Hank song.

7. Lick the extended tongue.

8. Add a beer cooler. Two? OK.

You are dung. I mean dun. I mean done.


Well, afterwards go fishing:


A glow interview with Kathy Fish about flash fiction.

She discusses why she writes flash.

3 Flash I admire today!

The Washingtaco became a lunch staple: a crisp one-dollar bill folded longwise and stuffed with quarters.

A.R. LaRoche discusses money here. I like the rising action, the turn, the conceptual nature, the logic, the cleverness, the way money is our bodies and our bodies money.

There is the voice of God in the bass reverb and the lyrics’ rising incantation.

Claire Rudy Foster and PUNK. I like the voice, the address–persona to auditor–the energy is glow, the energy, control of time, lots of waving and jumping and hands up like you just don’t care. It captures something.


Below the hills a white egret will spin across the green marsh flats, bursting in my vision like a firework in the night; and I will be sure that the blue has never been so bright and low, the whole weight of the sky hanging just over our heads as if we are children beneath a parachute. My son tells me, “There is no present, Daddy.

Steven Church with what lyricism can do…such control, and an exquisite mix of image and reflection. The controlling fog metaphor feels very authentic. Life, the gray area between of what we know and do not know at all, what we have and wish for, what we understand and all the rest. Fog.

Church interview.

Pro tennis player, Stan Wawrinka: “I don’t like to read books.”

Thanks, Stan.

No glow to you.

And so on.


Glow Flash Today: Ron Currie Jr.

The Captain by Ron Currie Jr. is an odd one, both large and small, compressed and expanding, as is the way with some flash.

The Captain, dressed in starched khaki shirt and pants, descends the stairs for his breakfast at 7:31 AM.

…it begins, and, for me, this set a light tone. I thought the text was going for farcical, almost Captain as Quixotic…I had this ridiculous vision of a man dressing up specifically for this ritual of breakfast.

(not so unlike some writers who work from home, yet still don a suit in the morning before sitting at their desks)

But then the tone shifts.

And the idea of ritual takes on a new meaning.


Maria, his housekeeper, sets a plate of scrambled eggs and extra-crispy bacon at the head of the table. She pours his coffee. She says, Good morning, Captain. He nods, wishes her good morning. She wants to call him Admiral—that was, after all, the rank he was given upon his retirement—but she knows this would anger him. The Captain considers himself a Captain still.

The Captain is, as he sits eating his eggs, the only man in the United States Navy to ever have been court-martialed for losing his ship during wartime. His back is straight, shoulders squared. He is seventy years old.

Here, two things happen:

First, this isn’t a farce, unless we’re going assume cruelty by author, and we are not.  (To quote Currie Jr: With ‘The Captain’ I was aware, too, that I was dealing with real people, and I think that made me approach the thing more carefully.”) This is clearly based on an actual person now, Rear Admiral Charles Butler McVay III, the only commanding officer of a warship in the history of the U.S. Navy given a court-martial for negligence during wartime. Captain McVay–for those who care, and really you should care if you care about literature, or life–was, in my opinion (and many others), wrongly blamed after the sinking of his ship, the USS Indianapolis CA-35 (of the crew of 1,196 men, 879 men died–the worst disaster at sea during the entire war for the US Navy). But the ship was on a secret mission, so no rescue came until too late, no destroyers escorted it, McVay wasn’t given critical information, etc., etc and so on.


I could go on, but let’s make one thing clear: as a persona to base a flash on, this one has power and potential. Captain McVay is a cursed, almost mythological character.

I myself write a lot of Persona flash. It’s important who you pick–not every persona brings weight. This one does. Some writers sabotage their own persona flash immediately when they choose the historical figure (though I’d also argue ANY persona COULD be effective, with right technique).

Other writers never take the persona seriously. Currie does. He knows he’s dealing with something larger here, as in history. Even better, it’s a complicated and controversial history.

I guess I’m saying I read a great deal of persona poetry and flash. I think it definitely works best when the persona is conflicted. Really, a persona is not about the exterior events of whomever; it is about the internal reaction to the events. That’s really what is interesting, again, the literary aspects.


Second, in the excerpt above, the techniques that will drive the flash are established. A distant, yet informative narrator, who gets in/gets out with information and then allows the flash to unspool.

Maria and The Captain drive the structure of the flash and contain it. They are two satellites that spin about each other, in orbit and in their rotations, energy pushing off one another. They are in a dance (I’ll mix metaphors if I like; it’s my blog), yet it’s a trance-like dance, again, a routine, but each person is a step away from breaking the practiced steps, you can feel it, with Maria’s constant tension, The Captain’s daily awareness of his burden. Both characters busy themselves–Maria scrubbing pots, the Captain planting shrubs–while their interiors roil. They make small, ordinary movements, and then the narrator gooses the accelerator by dropping in brief, precise exposition:

The Captain’s home is two hundred miles from the nearest ocean.

Years ago, before it was sunk, the Captain’s ship delivered the bomb that destroyed the city of Hiroshima.

(Now you know why the mission was secret.)


It builds. It weaves–Maria, Captain, narrator–and builds. Rising action. This weaving is done well by the author, a light touch, no info-dump or front-loading or characters over-talking or any other clumsy technique. Here, it’s quick and effective. Unobtrusive.

I can’t tell you how many writers struggle with weaving in information into flash. It’s one glaring fail I see repeatedly in the genre. So I commend this author for showing how it’s done.

And the narrator stays out of the way. It provides what you need, but little more, no indulgence, no tricks (as Carver might put it). We are given the objectivity to watch it all unfold, and also this removed tone heightens tension. Counter-intuitively, in fiction a removal of narrator often works best with the most dramatic material (see Hemingway’s early war writings, etc.)


And then the ending turns, as we conclude on the man who sank the Captain’s ship, a food scene to structurally circle the opening, but then sleep not pacing, his doppelganger yet antithesis, tranquility to his anxiety, two men the same and very clearly a world apart…

It’s a technically compact flash and it carries theme. It’s not clinical in its tight form–it is actually human, and what appeared as farce turned on us, and becomes something more.


The final technique I’d like to note is ambiguity. Near the ending, the narrative eye finds The Captain upstairs in his room with his service revolver. Downstairs, Maria cuts her self with a paring knife and screams!

There’s a moment.

Why did she scream?

So, we are downstairs with Maria when it happens. We are not even present in the scene. It’s pretty brilliant that way. We are over here, while the crux of everything is over there. We don’t even get the sound of the act–we get the scream…

Yet we know exactly

what happened.

Anyone who dwells on this planet in perfect contentment can skip what follows


The citizen who stomps every capital of Europe but has never been west of the Missouri River (so long the dank, brown, catfishy, dark, watered, empty, historic frontier) has missed a large number of important and interesting facts about the difficult business of being an American. The sky is not empty, folks; it’s a massive fluid layer. That’s why we can float. Window. Seat. I matriculated in an inflated steel inner tube the mount of Ranier shrouded most prominent in its own weather system like a very attractive woman on over-sized stacked cubes (possible delicately adjusting as she dances) beneath a strobe light, off an alley, some club.

The aura she creates. She can deliver beauty; she can deliver climate; she can deliver a magnificent water front. Her body  was silver candlesticks, a bowl of polished fruit.

I used to dance at a Knoxville club called “The Underground” (hardly original, though hardly lame, as far as club names) and there was a young woman there, my gods, a young woman I knew, knew well at times, and other times more the way you might know a Grimm’s fairy tale told years ago, and she was some evenings–usually this on a roof drinking beer after dancing, the lips/the legs sore–she was a crater lake that was 16 feet deep and 130 feet long by 30 feet wide, the highest crater lake in Tennessee or more likely North America, stirring beneath 100 feet of ice in the summit crater, visited yes (never stayed), but only visited, and then by following a network of ice caves in the core of the volcano.

Here is her photo:


She reminded of Mount Ranier. Now that I get to glow it all these years later.

Same old story: White dude named Vancouver see this majestic mountain and names it after a pal of his, Mr. Ranier. Of course it already HAD a name. HAD A NAME.

Tacoma, for example.

The mountains climb on the backs of mountains!

Or some such nonsense.

I drank some Jagermeister–poor man’s Xanax for the flight–I had secreted in my jacket pocket and mumbled, “I’d like to try to climb a mountain one day.”

My head felt like a black-velvet portrait of Jesus.

A woman next to me (her daughter a Stanford student diving in the Pac 12 NCAA competition in Seattle) coughed (she was drinking two vodka tonics at once) and said, “The view enjoyed from a summit could hardly be surpassed in sublimity and grandeur; but one feels far from home so high in the sky, so much so that one is inclined to guess that, apart from the acquisition of knowledge and the exhilaration of climbing, more pleasure is to be found at the foot of the mountains than on their tops.”

OK then.

At least I wasn’t next to WRITERS. There were writers all over the damn plane, reading POETRY.

It smells like writer.

Katie bolt the door!

Who the hell is Katie?

I also read poetry. As is my way. BTW, this Natalie Shapero book is glow to the hurly-burly passions and dangers and delights of Big Word Play. Smart book. Fun and serious. Serious fun.


Landed in Houston don’t remember Houston. Houston smelled like the space between the hit pedestrian and the motor car. So I remember the odor of Houston. So.

I had another beer.

Re-read Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano. He’s coming to Ball State‘s IN PRINT festival. Attend! Attend!


All kinds of literary glowness:


yep, yep, yep. Going to be words, words wearing overalls with the top part unbuttoned so that straps tangle-out against their own behinds. Good words, I’m saying.

Landed in Seattle.

A taxi took me to the wrong hotel. We meandered. I saw trees resembling elevators and the sky was gray and past the taxi glass were rooms, beauty, clauses.

Then I took a train. Sometimes on a train I feel like a character in a novel and I grip my swaying metal bar and trumbling along through SeaTac and Othello and SODO and Pioneer Square and whatnot. Two dollars and fifty cents. Seems as reasonable as an ear of corn.

Seattle has a gigantic hinterland for such a small big city.

Train people in Seattle wear bulky, bullet-proof vests and are very nice. I missed my train station and one of them said, “Just go the next one, even though you didn’t pay to go that far, but we won’t tell anyone.”


Train staff helping yet another passenger…


My room is on the 9th floor and the elevator goes to the 8th floor. This made my mind muddled.

I am missing a floor, folks.

The hallway smells like fried fish.

Then you meander and whatnot. Into billowing spray of innumerable waterfalls and rapids–I mean the carpet. Then go to this elevator. It’s like fucking James Bond up in here…


Ah, Seattle. My oyster…well, not really. Because I’m here primarily on work. But between work are slivers of glow. Shards. Seattle? Lumber, shipping, writing conferences, fish, oyster sandwiches, fruits, grunge music, beer, coffee, running outfits, hot dogs, nachos, WRITERS, and vegetables seem to constitute the basic economic activities of these Northwestern communities that have clear access to the Pacific Ocean.

Fuck, let’s eat:

I stroll on out the hotel–what? no rain–and I’m wearing some sort of V-neck thang (just getting into V-necks recently) and I pass a CYBER CAFE that sells ONLY HOT DOGS, but there’s a big sign that says VEGETARIAN ONLY.


Veggie hot dog like Mobile station or Microsoft works? An oxymoron?

Um, sort of, um, cluttered in here…




I ate it with my hands and ate it with my fork. Then I came back the next day and ate a GIANT-ASS CAJUN HOT DOG VERY VERY FREAKING HOT/SPICY, even to me. And I have the heat tolerance of a dragon.

The sense of infinite possibilities still storks the Western mind.

“It isn’t raining!” I said to a young man next to me (he was dressed in green pants and a green sweater with a toboggan hat, hunter orange), “I came to see rain!”

“It will rain,” he said. “And it will be a cold, sucky rain.”

“True!” I barked. Then pointed out the window to a cloud the shape of a whale being impaled (by a seaplane). “But on the other hand, you have natural beauty
which we haven’t in the same sense in Indiana; and so you care a lot more about it than we do. It means more in your life.”

“It’s a big deal to grow a tree,” he said.

Then walked away.


Chomp, chomp.

If there is only one fine building in the Far Western town, that building is the vegetarian hot dog stand. In the cities they are palaces. Nor is it all bricks and mortar: they pay their hot dog cooks better than we do in Muncie, IN. In the West they still keep the earlier American sense of the value, the sanctity of the hot dog. It must fitly perform a sacred task; it must be the proper nursery of future stomachs. In Indiana we have largely lost that sense-lost it, no doubt, perforce.

Head to the book fair. Book fair is odd. WAY too many books in the world. You write a book and you go into this room full of books. Let’s say you built a plastic, remote-control tadpole. Pretty badass, your own tadpole! It has cute little legs and that groovy tail and texture and swims a bit and whatnot. You open a door and there’s an Olympic size swimming pool full of plastic tadpoles. Well…


Juked magazine!

I dig these new microficciones by Matt Leibel.

We sucked at hide-and-seek because the places we liked to hide were so different from the places we liked to seek.


John Wang goes, “Hey Sean, you want some bourbon?”

I don’t really drink bourbon.

“Sure, man,” I say. “Pour me a shot.”

Bourbon goes down the hatch like a primitive living destroys formal.


Holy shit! Flash luminaries!

he and she and he and she.

Do you know them? You should, if you glow flash fiction.


  • Indefinable by style, so defined by word count (750)
  • Fully Realized: Structure/ Language/Theme
  • Compression & Efficiency
  • Flash fiction is NOT just a short story with fewer words. It is its own genre.
  • Steal from poets (if you know what you’re doing)
  • Allows an active reader, a text to be read ‘off the page.’ Hemingway’s famous iceberg dictum: only show the top 10 percent of your story, and leave the other 90 percent below water to be conjured.
  • It has a lot of names: sudden fiction, micro fiction, short short stories, miniatures, quick fiction, postcard fiction, smokelong, microfiction, vignettes, microficciones.
  • Lovelace pet peeve! Flash fiction is not exclusively contemporary and is not primarily domestic! The genre is ancient and worldly.

I am humbled, I am humbled.

As interest in the flash form continues to develop, teachers must be ready with pedagogical approaches in mind and in hand. This panel of experts in teaching and writing flash, including faculty from Chatham University, Ball State University, and Emerson College, along with editors from Brevity and NANO Fiction, will identify the best practices for generating successful flash-based workshops while exploring effective readings and exercises for writing students.


Went to a reading, in a bar-like theater-like, something, arty-looking folks. Smokelong reading.

So I read. And then actors act out the reading. Inspired and all…


Very cool. Words in motion.

“Hey, Dave, what’s up?” I asked Dave Clapper.

Dave drank 9 beers and said, “I want to be captivated, to be forced to keep reading. I like to have an ‘Oh, no, she di’n’t!’ moment while reading, but for that moment to be natural within the course of the story. I want my posture to change from leaning back in my chair to leaning forward with my eyes far too close to the monitor. It’s hard for me to say whether or not ‘The Cougar’ does that. It’s on the long side for SmokeLong—a bit over a thousand words—but I think (I hope) it doesn’t feel like it. I think the dialogue keeps things moving quickly. In re-reading it while editing, I was pretty happy with how easy it was for my eyes to keep moving from beginning to end. I also really want flashes to stick in my head after reading. Quite often, my initial vote on a story can be a ‘no’ or a ‘maybe, leaning no,’ but then after a week or so, I realize that it won’t get outta my head, so I go back in and change my vote. And I still find myself thinking about these guys, much moreso than my usual flashes. So I guess it passes my editorial eye a couple ways, even though I think it’s fairly different from what usually grabs me.”

“Cool,” I said.

Went to bed. Dreamed I was a giraffe shadow. Got up:


Do the tourist thing once, but do it. Then don’t do it. But do it once. That’s my philosophy on the tourist thing…


Yep, there it is. Its most arresting landmark, propped up for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle, a stout radio mast whimsically surmounted by an intergalactic flying saucer, drawn from a 1950s cigarette ad.

Then I had some nachos.




Tried to get a drink…

Tried, at a bar, near the writer’s convention…


I ordered a beer and waited a decade and pulled out my phone and called my mother and her first words, before she even said hello, were: “Where are you calling me from? It sounds awfully noisy in the back ground.”

“A fucking writer’s bar,” I said.

Then I went for coffee.

Hey mom, it’s the very first Starbucks.


Hey mom, Mark Neely and I are eating raw oysters and whatnot.


I ran and ran and ran. Didn’t jog, folks. Ran. Ran by the waterside.


Tried to go see Amelia Gray…tried.


Well, I’m happy she got a crowd.


Hey mom, an oyster burger!

Ran some more. Lots of stairs and hills and sculptures. A saw a seabird in the shape of vapor. Stairs felt very clean.

They used to meet one night a week at a place on top of
Telegraph Hill to explicate Pound’s Cantos-Peter who
was a scholar; and Linda who could recite many of the
parts of the poem thatenvisioned paradise; and Bob who
wanted to understand the energy and surprise of its
music; and Bill who knew Greek and could tell them
that “Dioce, whose terraces were the color of stars,” was
a city in Asia Minor mentioned by Herodotus.
And that winter when Bill locked his front door and shot
himself in the heart with a Webley service pistol, the
others remembered the summer nights, after a long session
of work, when they would climb down the steep
stairs which negotiated the cliff where the hill faced the
waterfront to go somewhere to get a drink and talk. The
city was all lights at that hour and the air smelled of coffee
and the bay. In San Francisco coffee is a family business, and a profitable
one, so the members of the families are often on the
society page of the newspaper, which is why Linda remembered
the wife of one of the great coffee merchants
who had also killed herself; it was a memory from childhood,
from those first glimpses a newspaper gives of the
shape of the adult world, and is mixed now with the
memory of the odor of coffee and the salt air.
And Peter recalled that the museum had a photograph of
that woman by Minor White. They had all seen it. She
had bobbed hair and a smart suit on with sharp lapels and
padded shoulders, and her skin was perfectly clear. Looking
directly into the camera, she does not seem happy
but she seems confident; and it is as if Minor White
understood that her elegance, because it was a matter
of style, was historical, because behind her is an old
bam which is the real subject of the picture-the grain
of its wood planking so sharply focused that it seems
alive, greys and blacks in a rivery and complex pattern
of venation. The back of Telegraph Hill was not always so steep. At
the time of the earthquake, building materials were
scarce, so coastal ships made a good thing of hauling
lumber down from the northwest. But the economy was
paralyzed, there were no goods to take back north, so
they dynamited the side of the hill and used the blasted
rock for ballast, and then, in port again, they dumped
the rock in the water to take on more lumber, and that
was how they built the harbor in Seattle.

Robert Hass


Snow and rattling rain and I can’t get home, folks. Dallas? No. New-freaking-jersey!? Yes. Cleveland? Yep.

Fly here, fly there. Buy Jim Harrison book and a beer. Jim Harrison reads exactly like Jim Harrison, which I appreciate.

Good writers make you hungry.


Hey look. I’m eating my birthday dinner at an Applebee’s. In New Jersey.

Depressing as a comma between face and science.

as a busy pigeon.

as a town council, or any other elective body.

as etc.

as etc.

as etc.

A meal, a shower, a bed for the night.


Would you like me to de-ice your plane?

Yes, yes I would. Ice reshapes the surface of the lift-producing parts of the airplane: the wings and the tail. That roughness is enough to change the aerodynamics of the wing such that there’s more drag and less lift.

Look, out the window, there’s a monster on the wing of the plane! No, no. It’s Muncie, Indiana.


I suppose I am back home.

The Kind of Girl by Kim Henderson

The Kind of Girl who writes flash fiction: Diane Williams, Lindsay Walker, Ana Maria Shua (South American queen of flash), Kim Chinquee (North American queen of flash), Lydia Davis, Mary Miller, Gay Degani, Amelia Gray, Meg Pokrass, Tania Hershman, Nicolle Elizabeth, Shellie Zacharia, Aubrey Hirsch, Sarah Rose Etter, Kathy Fish. Others.

They be glow like levitating Wednesdays.

Like transatlantic spirit bears.

Baudelaire: “Sois toujours poète, même en prose” [Always be a poet, even in prose.]

Baudelaire’s erratic personality was marked by moodiness, rebelliousness, and an intense religious tweaking of bass lures and Velveeta. 


Writers know writer Velveeta by the as/like/association. Auden once said his face looked like a wedding cake left out in the rain. That makes me want to sleep him hard. Call me maybe? Henderson writes, “My father’s torso was like slipping into a hard boiled egg—the perfect cocoon.” Later: cottage cheese ceiling. Looking like charred, deflated marshmallows. A dandelion among rosy girls. They seem to fall out of the sky and twirl down like maple seedlings, these words. Respect.

Judge Deb Olin Unferth mentions tension. It’s odd, but it’s true: most good stories/vignettes/whatevers have tension. Of course just looking closely causes tension. Just paying attention, which costs.

[Aside: Deb Olin Unferth always seems cool, even when she occasionally dances with “The Man.” Yet she maintains street cred. Might be her name, which reminds one of lilies, musk, art deco installations in urban libraries, and razor blades. Not sure…]

Symbolic compression.

It seems things are slipping away: tension. “Our ice cream melted…”

Things fall apart. No, the slip apart. Slide.

Kids see the adult world, fuzzy, can’t quite get it or want to. Adults see the kid world, fuzzy, can’t quite get it.


Some of the book reminds me of this poem.

What I glow about flash collections is how they whale-pod to a thing. Mood or tone or just whatever, it builds and builds. They are separate but the same, like that Fleetwood Mac album

where everyone was sleeping behind the backs and fronts of each other and it happens and it just drives the music to a fragmented whole, like settle into duck-hunting graphs mapped with green (my fav color) arrows and Ys or an unforeseen breakdown, so I mean shards in a bowl.


Above is my archery pal, Billy.

I think it’s very hard to write from a younger viewpoint. But here not so at all. They key is to write it clean, just state what happened. A memory that is told from the future, yet rendered so cleanly in the moment (past). It’s a tough thing many people try, but Henderson, she does it.

Here’s the line, the microcosm, the hot engine of this machine: “In class, we learned that humans didn’t see what we literally sensed, but rather what we thought we sensed.” Indeed.

Many of the structures are what I would call, spatially, filling a glass. Turn on tap, glass fills, and fills, more quickly, CUT. Turn off tap. Often the dénouement is deadly. The gear shifts so fast as to grind/screech and wake from the meditation. Started and startled. It’s a keen thing.

Best Seattle nachos? Just saying.


Some writers insist you follow. Example:

This line: “She is a preacher now, or an artist, I can’t remember which.”

Character not as emphasized. Situation might replace character (possibly opening the form to archetype, to fable?)

eggs leap

Or this: “We had an organ in the family room when I was twelve for some white trash reason…”

Or: “And there’s sex, which is free and makes people like each other.”

Two pages of the book are this amazing green.

I like an assured narrator. With command of history, mythology, and technique.

Childlike imagination runs through as a balance to lighten the elegiac journey.


There is no possible way to determine what is or what is not.

I don’t know. No, I do. Guess I’ll keep an eye. An eye out. I’d like to see more. I would.

Add Kim Henderson to list # 1 above. She belongs.

Starbucks I Say is Writing or Writhing

Well, I’m sitting at a Starbucks in Downstate New York but it might be Upstate, I’m not sure actually. The gorgeous are gorges, etc. I glow all modernist, all Perec or Baudelaire (though I couldn’t feel less French except for current scraggly ‘beard’ [cough, cough] and my tendency to glow Woody Allen and Bill Clinton and ceramic dachshunds and walks along most any river), just capturing notes of life and motes of life and all that is cardboard anti-hot device or caffeine or California roll-colored North Face jacket or archery bangs. Words are meant to capture, like poetry, or the cough of fresh fish, or a certain way of flash fiction. Snagging a scene, for example. This could be a great exercise if you teach. Sit and capture. Or if you don’t teach: sit and capture. At Starbucks, I capture two giant photos of waving, green fields on the wall and that makes no damn sense. They might be acres of corn or maybe wine or just Photoshop. I can hear everyone’s order because the only seat is astill the ordering stall/slaughtering chute. I have no Internet and I need Internet so here I perch, sun-off-snow sort of bathing in passing as intensification suggesting hoarding words, a leaping (sloth!) on itself the kitchen drawer of that sky separating us from the hemline or nearly touching features (stop that metaphor!), Velveeta, no less THINGS than drawn splashes of processed cheese across that sky. Messy writing, that previous sentence. The Starbucks is very busy and very Starbucks. It has a line of 8 but the line NEVER ENDS. It is always 8 people, replaced by 8 people, replaced by 8 people. Back-n-day, I actually used to be a registered nurse and the company gave me Starbucks stock and so I used to own Starbucks stock but I let it go because I loved it. I now regret that decision.

Yo. I wrote a text about frogs.

Yo. I wrote a new chapbook with frogs in the title but really it’s all about Velveeta. If you like Velveeta, give it a whirl.

How is Starbucks? It looks exactly like this:

huff nachos 2

They are hiring. They ask two questions on a chalkboard:



But I warn you: these people are working HARD. (Though, in some jobs, working hard is better than working slow. Is Starbucks that way? I do not know. I had a job once where all I did all day was watch a train tanker unload. Hook up the suction. Sit. On chair. Upon gravel. All. Day. Good job for reading books. Forgot what I read, but most likely that was the summer of racing forms and Richard Brautigan. The company I worked for was a chemical company, if you must know. It took chaff and wheat or whatnot and mixed it with acid (arriving by train)  and other things and made a polymer. That very polymer makes Olympic running tracks and tennis shoe bottoms and missiles and yawns between the glass in your car windshield so the windshield will not shatter, if you must know, as you drive it into a tree or someone’s forehead or whatnot. I ate my first fried bologna sandwich on that hot Memphis summer. What else? Watched people steal things. Watched a guy get a 14 CENT check, which he tacked to the wall of the break room to make a point about “The Man.” (Stealing was also to subvert The Man.) Worked with a guy named Maxine. And Chester. Watched my friend fall into a vat of chemicals. (His body turned an eerie red, like glazed.) Was laid off during one of the depressions, the George Bush one, the one where the cars weren’t made so they didn’t need any fancy polymer in the windshields and we went to war with some country who bought our missiles so couldn’t sell for obvious patriotic reasons and who buys fancy tennis shoes when you can’t pay rent ? so well so go home Sean Lovelace, go home. I did so.)

Here is me eating a bologna sandwich:

denver disc 1

Everyone is polite in this Starbucks. wow, it’s busy. I’d take a photo right now but don’t want to be that guy. No one is buying mugs or beans or Cohen Brothers movie CDs or really much fru-fru food at all, but the liquids are moving. Moving. Moving. A river.

Here, let’s go live: I’ll describe everyone in line, but it will have to be quick impressions because this place is vibrating like a lobbyist.

* GRANDE NON FAT MOCHA: green cashmere sweater. Matching cashmere cardigan with imitation jade buttons that match her real jade choker. Has: Plumpish, snowing skin. Naturally pink-pink lips turned eggplant with MAX Factor lipstick. Nose that flares gently up and out. Valley black eyes. Wide-set. Excessively lashed. Smells like gasoline. Said something I missed about Christmas and a dog. Reads Diagram magazine.

Here’s a photo of her elbow:

nachos b

* LARGE ALL YOURS MY FRIEND: beanie hat, fluffy jacket brown, looks like he rifles medicine cabinets and picks up roadkill off the, well, road. Pops his neck like a knuckle and checks his fake-sincere smile in the heart of a Beyonce CD. Does not purchase the CD.

* VENTI PEPPERMINT NO-WHIP DECAF ICED COFFEE: WTF?? That’s quite the order. Possibly wearing black-n-white pajamas. This whole leggings thing has me confused, so I don’t know. (Get off my lawn!) Great legs. Legs of a panther, I’ll give her that. Gives off an odor of wet artificial grass, but possibly that’s the odor of Starbucks.

* SALTED GRANDE SOMETHING: You can salt shit here? Purse is huge and has green spikes. It looks like it’s fashioned of dinosaur. Wears UGGs the color of sand. Told the world to keep the change.

velveeta still life

* TALL WATER (ha ha ha ha): Wears tight black Lycra pants with huge red red red bag. What’s in that bag, Alaska? Who the fuck orders a cup of water at Starbucks, quit trying to out-do us with your minimalism. I’m being mean, possibly.

* DIDN’T HEAR HIS ORDER: Dressed as if heading to Everest. BRIGHT blue jacket shoes built for kicking ass at a show attended by four screaming teenagers flash-mobbing fail at the mall. Stomach appears unsteady. Drinking a drink contemplatively.

* I WANT A SPRITE: Kid in crisp red and white soccer uniform. I’m suspicious how clean this uniform.

* VENTI UH DECAF ICED COFFEE: Penn State baseball cap jeans undistinguished black jacket. Seems pretty much normal whatever that means. No one is normal.

* GRANDE SOY SOMETHING: Wears sunglasses indoors black North Face jacket smiles too much. Crazy smile, skin flickering like a rest stop. Lycra pants show a lot of all.

phone cheese

* GRANDE NONFAT LATTE: Keeps mumbling “There are no tables…” (Correct) Lycra pants with running shoes her long brown hair is splattered friction all over her back (spaghetti) and if she could see that she wouldn’t care because she’s holding a kid in her arms and priorities, man, priorities, though she might still care a bit because parents try to be selfless but they are humans, too, man, humans. Her eyes are a stripe of lightning.

* VENTI SOMETHING MUMBLED COUPLE. She wears brown with black, he’s in inappropriate aged Converse low tops and they both sort of lean into each other, like touching all the time, which is a metaphor of how they are one and sort of touching or it pisses you off. Sickening or pretty sweet, your call.

* VANILLA GRANDE ICED SOMETHING. Beauty does not go out of style, so it’s irrelevant what she is wearing. Her breasts are ringing hammers on anvils, I’m sorry to be so crass. Loud.

* VENTI UNSWEETENED GREEN TEA: Mom in metallic sunglasses and Lycra over-laugher keeps saying “We’re going driving in a little bit!’ and “We’re going to eat lunch in a little bit!” Then says, “Wow, you have really good hands!” to the someone nearby and then she laughs and laughs and laughs. She’s wearing gray socks that go up to her knees, not sure why. Little kid sits on counter sucking on an apple juice box. Our bones are the same, but she wears her flesh without the wrongness of my flesh.

TRIPLE SHOT SURPRISE LATTE: Guy all morning has been over-eager and WAY too loud for Starbucks and talks WAY too much and he’s wearing a hat with a fake brown beard and he’s VERY talkative about the beard and the hat and after his order (a latte with a triple shot and he wouldn’t name the flavors of the shot–instead he yelled out, THROW WHATEVER IN THERE MAKE IT A TRIPLE SHOT SURPRISE!!! After he yelled people sort of shifted around and move further from away, you know).



I can’t do this anymore, the pace is amazing. Jesus, I’m starting to respect journalists who take notes or stenographers or anyone who writes on demand, period. My toes are exploding.

COFFEE, MEDIUM: still trying the ponytail at his age? Wow. He’s sitting there writing notes on a laptop. Unstable, nosy, eavesdropping?? Black hat, camouflage jacket, a freaking Hunger Games pin (his daughter probably bought it for him at Secret Santa so he wore it, but now he sort of likes it). Black Puma shoes, no socks.

He is. Hunched over, right by the cashier.


Sean fish

Well, it takes all kinds.

Sometimes People ask me do I have Prompts. Here are Your Fucking Writing Prompts (with ideas on potential blog reader comments)

  1. Take a man. Take a woman. Add a slammed door, and a heart like flash fiction (yellow diamond, un-scratched match, T-shirt reading BOO HOO, virtuosity, systole, diastole—or series of blows/working verbs: press, thrust, hiss, memorialize, kiss and fly). Add conflict, as in dead dog, as in our dog, SarahSara, possibly skittering metaphor, as in the day you walked out the door—the dog leapt, the dog tumbled down the brickssteps, away—half-drunk, half calling/half cursing my name, SarahSara, but fully knowing, fully not-back, fully turned and door-framed like a prophecy, fully here, there, everywhere, gone.
  1. Write one page about fugacity. This moment no longer. This one. Add a shadow of cotton panties, a perfect angle, triangle, an edge tos this day softening in the memory mflaw. Add two shots of tequila before the Jai alai matchfootball game, and the way we lost currency, or won. (That I can’t remember now should matter.)

velveeta girl 4

  1. Take a character, a young man. Create for him an ornamental garden. Now drop a stone onto his head.
  1. Take a bath. Take a nap. Take a nap withinin a bath. Go lie down.
  1. [Writing prompts are a peculiar (and persistent) component to the ever-expanding genre of How to Write.]
  1. Take an act you didn’t commit. Now confess.
  1. Write one page about how you should just kiss, not ask, “Do you want to kiss?” (I am telling you now how to begin a story.)
  1. Write one page to tack it all down: gray claspfold after unclaspfold of brain. This is why.
  1. ellenWrite one page about the purple bra that defines. The shoulder shrug (purple bra spiraling to the floor)something funny then; isn’t so funny now.

 (purple bra dangling from ceiling fan)

(purple bra in the office drawer)

(purple bra in the satellite dish. some type of tangled kite)

10. Write ababout the poltergeist of yourself. An aftermath portrait/unlike image/song. . How can you haunt your own living room? Describe the process, step-by-step. Add the day you drank 14 beers and tossed a urinal into the  air.


  1. [All of this origamiing itself upon the creative artists (and their theoreticians) usual conundrum: Can writing be taught?]
  1. Write about what you know, which I mean as nothing.

 as night on suburban lawn (always grass as emerald)

as oral as most distant

as days labyrinth, but pretend to know

as I keep waiting to give an authentic speech. years pass.

as the smell of a particular

As Nothing.

stein nachos 3

  1. 1.             There goes a highway dog, tongue lolling…
  1. There goes the writer who feels the climax early on.
  1. Take your draft and treat it like a final conversation—lacerate every Bad Faith/clumsy word.
  1. Throw a bottle through a window , into a mirror.
  1. Take your draft and make it likeable, make it lean, as in wearing tank top and surfer shorts. Run it right into the ocean, below the horizon of expectation. Let its spill like an entrance, or . Add cough glass of fake Irish beer.
  1. Take your draft, on its own terms, meaning things fall apart, meaning the flowers are collapsing on themselves, the car is rusting, the throat tightening, the very pages of a book, words of warm air, individual letters etched in tombstones crumbling as we write these words…so what did you expect from love?

Take your draft and make it feel, think, decide, experience. Don’t neglect the allure of pinot noir, sympathetic characters, and sex in bathrooms. Add a banana.

 roomTake your draft and give it to another writer. A guy named Buck. Buck will say, “The best story is an invisible story.” What the fuck?

 Go fling and lose something. (Fling two cups of warm beer, those red Solo cups, and the night of the dance with the hipster girl, the night of nitrous oxide balloons—I believe you ended up sleeping on the ceiling. Lose your lunch, sunglasses, self esteem.)

 Buck is one of those serious people.

 Lose Buck.

 Lose Buck like salvation. Don’t let the door….

  1. [Or, more specifically: Can a writer/text be jump-started?]
  1. nachos girlTake your draft, your desert wind, Sirocco, the rattle and thunk of lungs, of window shutters, hot pop of glass panes,  because the novel is a house or body (the first days, her kind mom offering me beer), the story, a room or ventricle (her photos of men: prom date, college friend at beach, guy she met in Italy), the flash fiction, a window or pulse (drywall scar—table thrown into wall, drunken Halloween), the poem, the genitalia, or the day we made love in the front seat of my father’s Dodge, in the walk-in cooler full of apples (Easy Way Produce, Memphis, TN), in the Peabody library, in the beds of all those embarrassing hotels; for the last time, very last gasp, both of us wondering why—bodies doing this (writer), minds doing that (editor)—both of us crying.
  1. I said a slammed door. The sound of sculpted cheekbones, the glint of aroma flesh, senses all wringed out wrong, words, mouth, eyes, chambers and cyclones. Something opens, closes, so sudden.
  1. Add a word loop. (day she made our way back/moved my tongue/like numbers in an equation/made our way back)
  1. Add a fixed form. (autograph tattoo, or TV show, or lying to self, worse type of lie, considering everyday availability of mirrors)nachos 3
  1. Add a rethinking (trying to hold it together not even the answer)
  1. Add a thought broken-loose, unmoored. Scrambling, scrambling dog.
  1. Add buying me bluster, the skeletons of words. The gift of gab. The gift of soft sobs on the page, or some flushed cheek. Enter stage lightning.

 (if you float above yourself, how can you be present?)

(who would you like to call?)

(writing your own history now. how can that be true?)A feeble attempt to keep the track dust from peppering her nachos grande.

  1. Add buying me a beer, honey.
  1. [Just a little positive/negative jolt, and away we go…maybe.]
  1. Add a writer’s block. Another writer’s block. Stack them up; build a fucking Taj Mahal (mausoleum of all our days).
  1. Write from the point of view of something low, a microbe, or everything you can do and lose, or an uneaten dinner.
  1. You are now a landscape. Go frame your days. Go plot-wise.
  1. You are now a long, steamy shower. Go dripping ink. 
  1. You are now a hot sore. Go run.
  1. You are now a dog. There goes a thick pelt, some covering.
  1. You are now a glass. Go stain the page. Go bleed.
  1. You are now a flaw. Be certain.
  1. You are now Chicago. Go winter. Go spellbound fog. Go big hotel and skunky marijuana. Go wonderful claustrophobia. So close together. So pressed like a flower. Go video camera I still can’t believe.
  1. You are now a stunt. Be serious. Break a bone like a semicolon.
  1. You are now a bra strap. Go undo somethingyourself, or at least try.
  1. You are now a penny. Go spend yourself, or leave behind. velveeta still life
  1. You are now__________________(this is where we imagination)

 [Like most advice on the written word, prompts work and do not work.]

  1. Put a sidekick, say police officer somewhere on the page (enter violencesnowmelt and weeping lights).
  1. Put a police officer in the rear visionew mirror. Blue sparks red. Feel that, as you slide away the can of beer. That’s how my heart always felt, then.
  1. Put a police officer at the door. Compare his hair to wet sand. Give his character a nature, which I mean as broken flowerpot on the table, winter rains, or what he does when someone slaps him in the face.
  1. Describe a kitchen. Add knives and something handy to cast and shatter. Add a yoga instructor/mom and the earlier police officer and a woman with skin like an electrifying rumor. You can’t quit looking at her, can you? Add me, and have somebody fling themselves to the floor.
  1. Lure the adverb into church.
  1. Lure the adverb into jeans. Now cut-off. steve
  1. Lure the adverb into an alleyway. Cradle like a Pabst, nearly make love, and then crunch away in headlock exponential.
  1. Take a color, any color. It could be the purple of really dancing, finally letting go. It could be the yellow of reading crumpled receipts, a lover’s purse. The green of feeding French fries to sparrows, that photo kept. Red is all the fake people we lived to avoid, their sanctimonious pleads. (I hope we aren’t one of them.) So now add mathematics. Divide. Subtract. Where are we, are we, are we summed up now?
  1. Take a list of objects: envelopes unopened, olive oil, hips rocking, bong in shape of Woody Allen’s head, Missouri in the rain, disposable razor, hardening nipples, day just dawning, unfiltered Camels, fierce and quick, floating in the pool, ribcages pressed, crushed Dexedrine, rapped it down,  Tupac Shakur, rubbing legs, glow of limbs, glow of tongue, gas station wine, hot dog stands, nacho stands, stands of pines, vibrators, purple lips, hummingbirds, 4 a.m., symmetrical cleavage, needn’t be nervous, needn’t look away, diet whatever sodas, touch of rum, touch of wet, touch of thong in color of cotton candy, throwing smoke, handstands in cheerleader uniforms, scratchy wool, paper petal skin, wrapped a towel, blonde hairs, brown curls, a dog’s howl, a dog’s black head, a dog’s way of nachos
  1. Select an object from the list.
  1. Write about the object, but don’t look at it. Don’t pause. Don’t sit there in a predictable path. Don’t sing to tornadoes, friend. Other predictable don’ts.

(What are you waiting for?)

  1. [The majority of prompts are meant as metaphors. “Imagine yourself as a tree…” can be read to mean, Take yourself out of your own narrow experience, drop the ego, stop editing/watching as you create, and so on.]
  1. We don’t wait, unless we are crouching (to spring), hidden in the ambush/scribbled crevasse, that space between known and unknown. This is why.
  1. We don’t use the word because. We don’t use the word almost or very. We don’t say, “Well, my sister saw you do it” or “I’m just doing this so I can see you better.”

 We don’t use but three exclamation marks our whole lives.

 (unless during. we use three to four thousand during)

 We go exponential exhalation now, we go clear. Z NachosWe don’t stop a running dog. (draft flowingg well)

 We don’t cry on the page (anything but).

We don’t explain.

  1. Take a letter and write it into a bedroom. I prefer a creaky bed. Loud. uilding.
  1. Take a body part and write it into an unreal world.
  1. Take a frigid day and describe its lengthening. Its brilliant shrunk coin.

Take a studio apartment.  A futon mattress on the floor. Could we have lain there happy our entire lives? We never did answer. Or did we?

  1. There is a dog house shaped of a box set of Billie Holiday…
  1. [Here, I take the device of the prompt and appropriate it for narrative need.]
  1. Take a proverb. Add a taste and aroma no one seems to write about: alkaline, salty, like edge of batteries, or the brackish sea. Some type of moaning. Finally, finally, give yourself permission to end this exercise with the words, “And then she awakes.”
  1. Take the language of road signs and describe making out atop the water tower.
  1. Take a cell phone. Make your ring tone the hiss of seasons changing. Use a metronome to measure your phone calls. The sound of permission and keyboards thinning. unicorn nachos 2
  1. Take a cell phone. Whip out a cell phone. Eavesdrop like a writer. Drop-in like a writer. Steal everything not tied down, or even tied down—wrap yourself in knots of words, nets and tangles of words, barbed wire, glint and pierce and stuck bleeding still. Listen. Hear. Write one page, twelve more, and they must contain these lines of dialogue:

“I can hear you in me.”

“But won’t you need them now?”

“I think I want to, you know, hang out at home.”

“It seems I’m boring you.”

“Do you think this a fun game?”

“Party’s over!”

“I won’t believe a moment lived beautifully was wasted.”

“Prove it then.”

“Look, it’s a habit.”

“Hello? Hello?”buddha velvetta 2

  1. Take a repetition, a potential for patterns to emerge, the way our bodies keep doing everything our minds tell us to avoid. Add floating like an octopus off a kitchen floor. Add a character prop, like cough syrup and cheap vodka, like molasses sex, thick and sweet, drifting above ourselves, like calling out to a ship passing by. I think this will be a Tuesday, but that’s up to you.
  1. Take white space and make it red.
  1. [The white space and listing I feel makes it more disjointed, fragmented, and is integral, since this is the reality I feel/sense everyday in our world.]
  1. Fight for it. Break the nose of the sentence. Blow everything up like a semi-colon. Go omniscient on someone’s ass.
  1. Go flashback (body numb as if wasn’t there).
  1. Go currents struggling; go revealing truth (receiving a blow job, hand job, or tongue bath, while you watch the plastic glow-in-the-dark stars. Later you will peel them all away, and think of yourself as childish.).
  1. Go personal urgency (a need to leap from roofs).
  1. [We are split. Begin, middle, end?? Never heard of it, or as one poet says, ‘My life ain’t been no crystal staircase.”]green
  1. Now start cleaning up: verbs, coffee spills, that pile of letters, words, clichés: dog-tired, sick as a dog, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, let sleeping dogs lie, in the dog house, and you, wow, you look like somebody just shot your dog.
  1. Start on a hagiography (all of this in a phone booth).
  1. Start on a Homeric (all of this on a slow train).
  1. Start on a passion play (all of this in an elevator).
  1. Start on an index card. We’re going to file something here. We’re going to impale everything on the wall. First drafts with cigarette smoke with last of the beer with focus on nouns with a patch of dim yellow lights in the distance, the howls of dogs…They call this juxtaposition. They call this structure.

Take your eyes and close them.

  1. Take all the five senses:

Smell of cooler and blankets.

Taste of taking a deep breath, of standing.

Sound of tight within the body, curled.

Touch of mildly dizzy.paint nachos

Sight of SarahSara. That’s the dilemma for all the writers. Too much reliance on sight.

  1. Take a plot. Take a beginning, middle, an end. Throw in the sad thrill of laughter. Throw in cancer. Throw in my friend robbed of two dollars, then shot dead. Throw in the day I saw a young man on our roof. Day I smelled latex and onions. Day of reading. Day of email. Day of somebody kidnapped my sister’s rabbit. Day of doing cocaine at the bowling alley, right on the countertop where you select the ball. Day of broken bed, hair undone. Day of revolver. Crackling air. Sirens or dogs. Day of wailing.
  1. Take the day of your birth, the year. Go research. What did exactly happen?
  1. Take a word range. Make an omelet. Devastate some eggs.
  1. Take a bad poem, your weekend, now make it worse.
  1. Take a brief moment in time. A scene. Note and describe. Example:

Early spring. Thunderstorms. A squatty motel in Pensacola, Florida, pastel walls, vague paintings of shells, seahorses, a ceiling of rosy pink ceiling.

 “I like the rain,” she says. “Sunlight is depressing in a place like this.” She sits at a desk in the dark room and flips the light on and off, off and on: click, click, click. big nachos

 Now you write the rest. You finish. I want you to…You need to lie down. Get a clean sheet of paper. As if. Get some help. Describe what you feel right now. Describe a place you love. Think of a title. It should be simple yet complex. I said lie down. Shhhh… Control your tone. Someone is about to find out something rare: what another person truly thinks of them. Outside is a dog scratching at the door. A rain sweeping on the roof. Outside I am walking soon. Let’s say limping. There was a time in my life. Take the pen, the flat keypad. Take this text. Listen: you have no colleagues in this undertaking. Listen: I could be wrong. Listen: Why won’t you lie down?

  1. Take an article of clothing (The seven days straight I wore her socks to work)
  1. Do you follow all the rules?
  1. [As prompt, I hope these do start your engine, or at least get the lights flickering for an instant. If not, that’s OK, too.]
  1. Take a photo (digital, naked, her pelvis, ridge of that scar)
  1. Write about the time you clattered into an abyss.
  1. Take a myth and recreate the myth (If I fall, I’ll be caught. And we won’t spoil the moments born.)
  1. Are you sick, or simply paying attention?being sick?
  1. Which tone and atmosphereshade are you, black or white or evaporate?
  1. Which vitamin X?heart nachos
  1. [As I tell my university students, “Write about not being able to write.”]

personal ad?

  1. Which medicine cabinet songcountry song?


  1. Word association: Bottle of gin, Lorcet, revolver, dog, dragged out back in the snow falling darkness, dragged behind the dumpster with gun placed to head; and this seemed to be a solution. Go.

Which key will you discover? Which low door?

  1. Which unlucky bird? Silent still, in all this rain about us. If you could land, would you, and where?
  1. Which flea market? Which wagon or Chapstick or melted butter dish?
  1. Which god are you? Which god? Come on!
  1. Take a moment. Grab that methadone, the credit card hidden in the novel, and a all-clear weekend. Calm your spirit.
  1. Take a cold glass and a secret game. (Alabama summer we discovered bocce)
  2. Take a breath. Oh…Dylan
  1. [Oh, and if  any of you stumble across a woman named…]
  1. Take her skin. Aching, rubbing. Feathers of a rare bird. Fragrant silence. Buckle and heave. Wept on my shoulder. Oh…
  1. I am going to lie down for you now.
  1. I am going to lie down.
  1. I am going to lie.
  1. I am going to circle and circle and circle like a dog. Then lie down. Exhausted as dry mulch (once a flower itself, now.)
  1. I am going to circle and circle and circle like a dog. Then lie down. Exhausted as dry mulch (once a flower itself, now.)
  1. T
  1. 100. Take every title of every text you have ever written. Now use them as replacements for every ending line.Now make these titles into your ending lines.

Example:snoop nachos

SarahSaraMore Important Things to DoWhy does it Hit Bottom.?

SarahSaraNaked as She’d Ever BeenWhy does it Hit.?

SarahSaraWhy Does itIce Facts Cracking Thin.?

SarahSaraBeautifully Inhumane.Why?

SarahSaraTight Sparkly Costume.?

SarahSara…Leaping Quickly?

SarahSaraDrifting Apart Anything..


SarahSara…”taco bell



Yes! Very strong!



 Sticks out as one I’ve heard before.


 I feel like this one is a good start toward trashing the tired admonition to write what you know. I’d like to see you go off on it.

 Seems like these need some kind of lead in.


 Maybe a different response?

 Yes, yes, yes! This is perhaps a capsule of what I think you’re great at doing. Absurd twists, erudite glosses, bottom-feeder humor, all wrapped into a whirlwind passage.

 I appreciate the brevity, especially after the previous passages. I think they do need some beefing up though.




 How about “rear-vision mirror”?

 I like the interrelatedness of the entries. Might be something worth exploring throughout.


 Another favorite!



 More an aside, I think.


 What other words don’t we use?

 How about a starting sentence?


 Needs more, I think.

 Great stuff!


 More, more!

 Needs work.


 Here’s a great place I think needs some more of your disjunctive style, like #18.


 Yes, a few more of these asides throughout would be great.

 A riff would be nice here.

 A familiar one. Needs making strange, methinks.



 I’d say these would serve well as  an aside much like the  one after #79.

 This is great! I’m not sure about your examples.

What is Flash Fiction?

I think of Alice and the little door.

A cloud. Marveling to the ocean. We all see something different. We must bring ourselves to the event. A catalyst for the imagination. A great flash I will discuss with others, to see their opinion, to see mine, to see. A cloud.


Reading, by definition, is an opening to the possibility of meeting half way.

A cloud? That’s flaky.

Not a puzzle, a hint.

Miniature donkeys are very warm, loving animals.

kip 2

The Statue of Liberty re-created in the eye of a prose poem. (Critics riot.)

There is a section of the creek out back my backyard. Just a section, yet I don’t see it that way at all. It is its own entity, no doubt. It is a world, of the river, but without the river.

What value is the sound of water on stones?

Stop being flaky, though I understand your need to correlate—or attack the correlation of VALUE with money, consumerism as default, WORTH.

What is the value of a mile, of movement.

nachos 9

Allowing you to bring yourself. The mind crackles, that’s just science. They’ve done scans. Reading crackles more than passively watching. You have to bring yourself.

Nuns who do puzzles don’t get Alzheimer’s?

More and more.

More and more shards, in every medium.

A Diagram. (You might find some flash here) Behind the flash is a scaffolding, a math, an intricate and beautiful machine. Flash is enjoyable to disassemble and to assemble. Flash fiction is an intellectually engaging exercise, like chess or archery or disc golf or shoplifting.

Flash as subversive?

As attacked for its very brevity? “Kids these days…attention spans.”

sign 5

A sculpture of your thoughts at 3: AM molded from the eye of a mosquito.

I have always been obsessed with the wiring of a story.

Flash is a mastery within a mastery, a knowledge transferred within an intricate machine, a Fabergé egg, and, as Sherry Simpson says, “…and this is true 100 percent of the time – we’re all tiny masters of something.”

A clipped curiosity.

Every sentence could be a paragraph.

Like an arrow, it flies and strikes and cuts into us.


Some publishers admitted to a policy of no poetry.

Something in archery, the line, the angle, the result. Some things are innately simple as to be correct in themselves.

Moving water.

tub nachos

Brad Leithauser goes, “It clarifies the contours, it revels in the sleek and streamlined.”

Example: a loose crewel of bloody paw prints on the marble steps.

Flash fiction is what life feels like.

Flash fiction is like a feather made of mirrors. Feathers retain heat, among other things.

Flash fiction in ONE DAY.

ONE DAY something happened…

Life is too short to stuff a mushroom.

Your ass painted on a hair one-twentieth of a millimeter wide.


A story is not when a character undergoes a change. A story is when a character undergoes a change. A change.

Shapard says, “It was like an unannounced, unplanned rebellion by graduate student writers and young professors who liked the experimental writers of the seventies as an alternative to the established fare of longer stories.”

In flash, the inciting event might have come before the page, the event might appear AFTER.

Tenacity. Grind. I like to grind on a draft.

Stacked stones. So many flash collections.

velveeta guy

This one.

This one.

This one.

Stacked stones are eerie and wonderful and odd. They wobble, too. They climb.

Stacked river stones. Who doesn’t admire a tower of river stones?

Flash is ancient, like a boulder.

Like a cave, waiting.

Short attention span, my ass.

A water jug stuffed with bells and glow sticks.

Bells and glow sticks! That’s flash fiction!


Or as Brian Oliu says, “I am constantly in medias res.”

Flash fiction—especially the creation of—is play. Play is essential to humans, especially difficult play. Golf is popular because it is very hard to do well. Flash is the same, the buzz of capturing a moment. Golfers return to their awful rounds because “they remember the one good shot.” The buzz of doing it well, at least occasionally. That’s flash. We return to this difficult play. We have to. Try.

Flash is useful manipulation.

Reproductions of your regrets reduced a million times.

Flash is a chimney swift in the sky.

Flash is an impression.

To mark on a plan, map, or chart: To plot.

Smash a fucking windshield. (This one is really, really strong.)

Picasso’s Guemica painted on a bean. The bean stolen from a faculty lounge refrigerator.

 Tension is the mother, Jerome Stern says.


A moving sidewalk. Walking backwards up a moving sidewalk.

Flash is an image, no doubt.

Who are we to define story?

That seems reductive.

“I’m a flash fiction writer,” she says to begin the reading. “So if you don’t like what I’m reading, just wait a minute.”

An airline terminal, sociology.

For the miniature does not exist in isolation: it is by nature a smaller version of something else.

Randall Brown says, “Flash fiction lacks that past and future for the reader. It only is.”

If you like to watch people, I’d wager you’d like the genre of flash fiction.


Are you an architect or a technician or both?

You could do it ALL in one page.

shaw shank

The moment after you read a news story and think: all that thinking, conjuring.

A slop-free zone, Nathan Leslie says.

Read slowly, as you might a poem, several others have added…

Smart surprise, says Jennifer Pieroni.

Black Tickets.

You couldn’t tell the truth if you wanted to.

Go ahead and value ambiguity.

Flash nonfiction necessitates a lyric impulse.

The whole is actually greater than a sum of its parts, has to be, must be…must echo, folks. Make it echo.

I like Elvis Presley’s swimming pool. It is small, kidney shaped.

It is a fragment.

Janet Burroway uses the term, density.

It is NOT a fragment: David Starkey.

Charles Baxter: “Something suddenly broken or quickly repaired.”

Look around. There is a crevasse. It continues to grow. Will flash fiction fill that crevasse? Is it time?

What did Aesop bring upon us?


Man bites man.

The New York Times: Quicksilver dreams.

One day you, too, will, astonishingly enough, be dead.

polar 3

“…like a crystal jewel. I will sketch it in words.” Kawabata.



Not everyone aches for narrative.

What is narrative?

What if story is defined as aesthetic beauty?

get it

The lyric.

Mike Resnick says, “Brevity is not just the soul of wit; it is damned hard work.”

A word I detest: markets.

Wes Welker is small and contained. Compressed routes. Chunks. Of yardage. He doesn’t do things BIG, he does them precisely. He does them right.

We aren’t’ doing things the same length anymore. Our fiction can’t be the same length anymore. Not everyone is going to get off our lawns. Possibly, no one will.

Anything you learn in writing flash fiction will inform a longer form.

Some sprint, some marathon, but I know—I really do, having run many sprints and many marathons—that fast-paced interval training will make me a better long distance runner. The genres INFORM one another.

White space allows timelessness.

Go ahead and muse, go ahead and ponder. Patrick Maddon is basically philosophical.

katie nachos

It’s not “part of the story.” You have to work much harder than that. Painting the door on your house and painting a van Gogh take basically the same amount of paint.

Poets do it more than fiction writers.

There is no difference between a grain of sand and a galaxy.

My ass painted on a fly’s wing.

But I digress.

toy 2

Pins and Needles: A Type of Flash Fiction

Today I would glow to voice the “Pins and Needles” flash fiction. Why do I ponder it Pins and Needles? Well, pins and needles is an euphemism for anxiety, but also pins poke and prod and sneeze, while the needles sew up and pick at and cackle…Imagine a giant ball of mental yarn, a mind, circled, pushed, scrutinized with an instrument (this instrument will be words). The Pins and Needles flash breaks down a subject, but also holds itself to mirror. Mental loops, circles, caterwhomps and the saliva of a scalpel. These circles are metallic, possibly barbed wire, a ball of barbed wire…yes, that’s the image. But this ball is making love with a battery. It thrums. It can also shock. It crackles. It causes anxiety. It is anxiety. The humming is something like the pulse at the throat, fidgety fingers, tapping at the windows, thunderings, fingernail soreness, shredding out the hair…etc.

Do you need more?

No. I’m moving onto examples. If you can’t snag the image above, it’s possible you’re at the wrong blog, like Judy Garland eating nachos.

judy 3

Let’s discuss Mary Ruefle. Most know her a poet, but I would like us to suspend that knowing. Let’s contemplate her as a person who obsessively erases books and then replaces the words with paint and snakes and birds, etc.


Mary Reufle REMOVES words. She understands COMPRESSION and DENSITY. Juxtaposition, too. She would like us to meet her HALF WAY. So, let’s now know her as a glow of Flash fiction, specifically, Reufle’s flash collection, The Most of It. As essential and piercing as:

erasure 2

BTW, George Plimpton, in his immersion/participation journalism days, once played the triangle in a professional orchestra. Don’t snicker. Playing triangle in a symphony is not as easy as it appears. Producing a musical sonority, striking in the right place, at the right time, stricking at just the right velocity and pressure, etc.

But I digress…

Reufle’s book is a vibrant red and gold, not so unlike a salamander you might find in the jungle and squeeze/fondle for your little Mason jar back home on the ranch-by-the-riverside then all the sudden you fall over into a greasy container of seizure because that salamander was cradling a toxin in its fur coat.



Poets make excellent flash writers because they already have the harpoons in those things you store harpoons in (a purse made of sighs?). DENSITY drives a taxi made of ankle braces. Poets go for DENSITY. Words that bring several things to the picnic, including drugs. DENSITY knows how to sneak Doritos into a diet center by hiding them in a shampoo bottle. DENSITY is a customized book-carrying bicycle. DENSITY knows how to have sex in the shower while on a treadmill. Density was born in Leningrad. Was only there for three years. Then moved to Molotov, which is now Perm. DENSITY, when asked if it needs new spikes (since it fell over home while scoring the winning run), pats the reporter on the back and winks and reminds the reporter it wears new spikes (made of butter and silver) EVERY game and then says, “So don’t worry about it.”

snoop nachos

–STRIKE three, you’re out!

–Nice STRIKE, all the pins when flying!

–No? Then I shall begin my hunger STRIKE?

–You are one STRIKING young lady.

–Don’t STRIKE a match in here!

–Unless I STRIKE gold…

On and on, onto density. We need echoes. Words that do many things. Poets know echoes. Flash fiction writers know echoes. It’s why we can hear what they are saying. With Pins and Needles, they so want you to hear. They want you to join them in these pickings at the charged and sizzling thread (more a coil) of our tilted days and seclusion room nights. It is an empathetic genre, really, in its relentless scratching.

Let’s examine a few Pins and Needles flash, shall we? In The Most of It we have 30 individual texts. I will not chomp all of them (this isn’t a book review), but I’d like to hit a few to make my point. This book is a holy text (like many holy texts, it is somewhat under-read by those who should know better) of the Pin and Needle flash, and I will now use its shards to SHOW you.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

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The opening flash is titled, “Snow.” Here it is entire:

Every time it starts to snow, I would like to have sex. No matter if it is snowing lightly and unseriously, or snowing very seriously, well on into the night, I would like to stop whatever manifestation of life I am engaged in and have sex, with the same person, who also sees the snow and heeds it, who might have to leave an office or meeting, or some arduous physical task, or, conceivably, leave off having sex with another person, and go in the snow to me, who is already, in the snow, beginning to have sex in my snow-mind. Someone for whom, like me, this is an ultimatum, the snow sign, an ultimatum of joy, though as an ultimatum beyond joy as well as sorrow. I would like to be in the classroom — for I am a teacher — and closing my book stand up, saying “It is snowing and I must go have sex, good-bye,” and walk out of the room. And starting my car, in the beginning stages of snow, know that he is starting his car, with the flakes falling on its windshield, or, if he is at home, he is looking at the snow and knowing I will arrive, snowy, in ten or twenty or thirty minutes, and, if the snow has stopped off, we, as humans, can make a decision, but not while it is still snowing, and even half-snow would be some thing to be obeyed. I often wonder where the birds go in a snowstorm, for they disappear completely. I always think of them deep inside the bushes, and further along inside the trees and deep inside of the forests, on branches where no snow can reach, deeply recessed for the time of the snow, not oblivious to it, but intensely accepting their incapacity, and so enduring the snow in brave little inborn ways, with their feathered heads bowed down for warmth. Wings, the mark of a bird, are quite useless in snow. When I am inside having sex while it snows I want to be thinking about the birds too, and I want my love to love thinking about the birds as much as I do, for it is snowing and we are having sex under or on top of the blankets and the birds cannot be that far away, deep in the stillness and silence of the snow, their breasts still have color, their hearts are beating, they breathe in and out while it snows all around them, though thinking about the birds is not as fascinating as watching it snow on a cemetery, on graves and tombstones and the vaults of the dead, I love watching it snow on graves, how cold the snow is, even colder the stones, and the ground is the coldest of all, and the bones of the dead are in the ground, but the dead are not cold, snow or no snow, it means very little to them, nothing, it means nothing to them, but for us, watching it snow on the dead, watching the graveyard get covered in snow, it is very cold, the snow on top of the graves over the bones, it seems especially cold, and at the same time especially peaceful, it is like snow falling gently on sleepers, even if it falls in a hurry it seems gentle, because the sleepers are gentle, they are not anxious, they are sleeping through the snow and they will be sleeping beyond the snow, and although I will be having sex while it snows I want to remember the quiet, cold, gentle sleepers who cannot think of themselves as birds nestled in feathers, but who are themselves, in part, part of the snow, which is falling with such steadfast devotion to the ground all the anxiety in the world seems gone, the world seems deep in a bed as I am deep in a bed, lost in the arms of my lover, yes, when it snows like this I feel the whole world has joined me in isolation and silence.

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I can think of little better introduction into Pins and Needles. Note the techniques, as you will see them again and again in this form of prose.

The sentences. They grab your hand, but not always to comfort, sometimes to push your hand into, well, something. Possibly sharp or icky, as in something your mind doesn’t want to consider, but would rather avoid. They guide you down slippery paths unknown. They don’t like to behave. Look at sentence two. It is exactly the type of sentence you will see in this variety of contemplative flash. Eye the sheer length, but then the commas. You start, you pause, you take a step, you pause, you pause for another short stay, you start. You’re never allowed on exactly stable ground. Where are we going?In this form, sentences like to circle, coil, intertwine, much like a vine, a vine snaking its way about the grays valleys of your brain. Imagine Kudzu. Many of Reufle’s flash fictions are one long, long (gripping) sentence.


First Person POV is common, and often very personal, almost as if revealing secrets. Secrets and lies are often integral to Pins and Needles flash fiction. You will get third POV, at times, but usually when delving more into the philosophical (see below), using the POV to gain distance, and to universalize the characters (as us).

Diversions are central. We wander/wonder. From snow to sex to birds to gravestones to birds to sex to snow…yet these diversions must have threads. They are expertly knit–the pattern is intricate. It only looks like a ball of yarn. It is a spherical machine. This is the Pins and Needles flash. Feel its anxiety? It gnaws at stated or implied ideas (Where do the birds go when it snows? Do the dead feel snow?), and re-gnaws–seriously and unseriously (not a word at all, poet)–and then gnaws again, needle, needle, needle tooth by tooth. This type of flash doesn’t care for pithy generalizations like SHOW DON’T TELL, because it tells first, and tells so vividly the rule collapses on itself. This genre likes to play, with its “snow-mind” and its image-jokes (a lover disengaging physically from the act of sex to enter a car to go have snow-sex), but is primarily serious. To not see entropy, falling, brevity, mortality, and so on here would be silly in a most serious way. The Pins and Needles flash picks at larger issues, thus its foundation of anxiety. Issues we’d rather avoid.

BTW, several subjects come up again in “Pins and Needles” flash fiction. These would include relationships, sex (as aspect of relationships), humor (always dark–the type of humor you need to deal with life), animals and nature (as a existential foil to humans), the act of writing, violence, juxtapositions of. Often stark, quick juxtapositions. Why? most likely to create the substrata of this entire affair–not to be redundant–but I mean to say anxiety. Modern existence. Alienated. Anxious. Analysis (of the self, exhaustively). Now you’ve hit the heart (pumping hard) of the Pins and Needles flash.

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The Pins and Needles flash is a master of the opening line. Why? Because this genre is talking to you (again–not scene setting). It’s like, “Hey! Hey you! Listen to me for a minute!” Here a few from Reufle’s book:

“This morning I want to talk a little bit about killing.”   (Camp William)

“If you were very, very small, smaller than a leprechaun, smaller than a gnome or fairy, and you lived in a vagina, every time a penis came in there would be a natural disaster.”  (The Taking of Moundville by Zoom)

“If you bother to read this at all it is a clear indication your life is intolerable and you seek a distraction by engaging in the activity you are presently pretending to engage in.” (If all the World Were Paper)

And so on…

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Lastly (though I could go on; as you can see, I do glow Pins and Needles flash), as I intimated earlier, this genre often delves into philosophy. I don’t mean formally, but the whole genre is about Big Questions. This is the well-spring of much anxiety, no? We didn’t ask onto this odd stage, poor players, but here we are: now what? Indeed. Here is an example, a microfiction, the final text in the book, titled “On Burial.”

There are only two tombs: the tomb of Jesus and the tomb of Tut. Roll away one stone and you will be given everything: food, clothing, shelter, gems, cloth, seeds and oil, a replica of the world in pure gold. Roll away the other stone and there’s nothing.

For further Pins and Needles authors, read:

Lydia Davis. Probably the Queen of anxiety flash fiction. Cerebral, personal, deadly. A flash writer wins the Booker Prize!



Nearly every morning, a certain woman in our community comes running out of her house with her face white and her overcoat flapping wildly. She cries out, “Emergency, emergency,” and one of us runs to her and holds her until her fears are calmed. We know she is making it up; nothing has really happened to her. But we understand, because there is hardly one of us who has not been moved at some time to do just what she has done, and every time, it has taken all our strength, and even the strength of our friends and families too, to quiet us.


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Or try Diane Williams. Sentence master. Sex disaster. Nausea and Nerves.


Science and Sin or Love and Understanding

I am not going to look it up in a book or do research. There are those of you who probably know why the small switching tail of a small animal makes me remember how I want to copy lewd people.

If the answer to the question is: Animals set an example for people, then I accept the answer. Do I have a choice?

I gave my husband no choice.

The last time I shoved something down my husband’s throat was when I cheated on him. Now I say to him, “I didn’t want to shove anything down your throat.”

“It’s because I love you,” was the puny thing to say. It was puny compared to the size of the power which had made me say it to him.

The power had made me see things too. The power had turned him into the shape of a man wearing his clothes so he could leave me in the dark, standing beside his side of it, our bed. I knew I was seeing things.

He said, “I hear you.”

I may or I may not cheat on him again. But the last time, I was standing up when I knew I was going to do it. I see myself on the street, deciding. I am holding onto something. Now I cannot see what it is. This is no close-up view. I am a stick figure.

I am the size of a pin.

or try Angela Woodward. History, biology, psychology.



And there you have it.


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